Using Mobile Video Switchers

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Sometimes you have to take your multi-camera broadcast studio on the road, or even if it’s in an indoor space, it may need to move around and deploy quickly as the environment and your production needs change. For mobile situations, you may need to find yourself looking for a slightly smaller video switcher than one of those massive, daunting video switchers installed in TV studio consoles. Luckily, there is an impressive new breed of portable video switchers that allows you to live-switch easily and anywhere if you only have two or three cameras or even if you have six or more sources.

There are numerous mobile switching options for your cameras and video devices, so it’s helpful to evaluate what you’re looking for before you set out to find the best fit.

  • What type of cameras and sources are you using, such as HDMI or SDI cameras, PTZ cameras, DVD/Blu-ray players, a computer, or character/title generator?
  • How many inputs are you working with?
  • What type of outputs are needed for a recording, monitor, another switcher, Internet stream, computer such as HDMI, SDI, RJ45 LAN, USB?
  • What resolution do you need to switch—up to 4K for broadcast/recording or 1080p HD video for streaming?
  • If you want to stream your video to the Internet, if you need a switcher that can stream directly to the Internet or stream through a computer using software
  • Would your production benefit from a switch with a built-in monitor with program and multi-view, or can you utilize a separate monitor output?
  • If you need to use PTZ cameras, you may want to look at a switch that also provides PTZ control so you can control and switch all from one location.
  • Do you want to utilize built-in transitions, graphics, keying, and titles from your switcher?
  • Do you require analog audio input to embed in your output?
Roland V-1HD+ Compact 4 x HDMI Video Switcher
Roland V-1HD+ Compact 4 x HDMI Video Switcher

Starting Small

If you’re shooting a live interview on location or in a small studio and you only have two cameras to switch on the interviewer and the interviewee, you may only need two to three HDMI or SDI cameras, or maybe up to four, depending on your director’s choices.

A simple starting point is a switcher like the Datavideo SE-650, which allows you to input up to two HDMI and/or two SDI video sources. It features basic keying effects, wipes, fades, and an audio mixer, sends tally information to the cameras, and allows Picture-in-Picture and outputs to an HDMI or SDI monitor or other destination.

The Epiphan Pearl Mini can be great in an education or corporate setting when there is a learning curve. It allows you to input up to two HDMI and SDI sources, switch between the two using its integrated touchscreen, record your program to an SD card, and you can even input your own analog audio from a microphone, audio player, or audio mixer. The Roland VR-1HD switcher provides three HDMI inputs and three HDMI outputs, picture-in-picture program output to a monitor, and it also features a built-in audio mixer with multiple audio input options.

Epiphan Pearl Mini Live Video Production System
Epiphan Pearl Mini Live Video Production System

Some productions with only a couple of cameras and one operator for applications like a vlog or Internet show might benefit from switches with a simple interface such as the Feelworld LIVEPRO L1 or the RGBlink Mini that input up to four HDMI sources and can output to a computer using its USB port to send the video to a streaming site like YouTube, Facebook, or Twitch.

Adding Size and Complexity

In an event location such as a house of worship, corporate benefit event, or music venue, you may need remote control over your switch, so you can integrate it with another switch, controller, or software application. The Roland V-1HD 4-Input Switcher with encoder kit allows you to control it remotely using USB from your tablet, smartphone, or Mac or Windows computer using custom software. Another choice for remote control is the AVMATRIX 4-Channel Live Streaming switcher that allows you to output to a computer for editing or recording, and also allows control from a computer over a LAN.

In the other direction, again in houses of worship, event, or other location shoots that have minimal crew and require remote PTZ camera control, switchers such as the RGBlink mini+ allow you to switch, stream, and add FX, titles, transitions, and logos to your broadcast while also controlling PTZ cameras using the same interface.

Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro
Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini Pro

For live broadcast and Internet streaming in high resolution, a couple of very handy switchers are the Blackmagic Design ATEM Mini and Mini Pro HDMI switchers, which not only switch HDMI inputs to HDMI output, but can also stream to a computer or even directly to the Internet using the RJ45 LAN port. Although they can work with a variety of HDMI cameras, the switchers are custom designed to work with Blackmagic cameras such as the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, 6K, and 6K Pro, and they can switch and record 1080p video from up to four cameras. The Blackmagic software is compatible with all the camera settings, recording, and configuration, so setup and operation are seamless.

Portable video switchers
Portable video switchers

Extreme Locations

For locations that have minimal space—say you’re the second unit on a live extreme hike from the top of a mountain with only a portable table, backpack 5G kit, and a generator—you’ll need something compact. The AVMATRIX PVS0615 portable video studio features up to six SDI and HDMI inputs, as well as inputs for USB cameras and DVI/VGA sources, and it has a built-in monitor that folds out like a laptop. A similar switcher with a portable form factor and built-in display is the Datavideo HS-1600T, which also allows you to input from HDMI sources and livestream video, and it can also control HDBaseT PTZ cameras and input RCA and XLR audio input from mixers or direct from microphones.

AVMATRIX PVS0615 Portable 6-Channel Video Switcher
AVMATRIX PVS0615 Portable 6-Channel Video Switcher

Most of the above products and others allow you to add company logos in the live broadcast, creative transitions, effects such as animations and overlays, perform keying and green screen, and titles, all built into the interface or companion software. Other switchers that have simpler internal firmware need to run through a computer to add those effects using third-party software, so it’s best to evaluate what your setup will be before you set out to find a switcher.

What kinds of extreme conditions have you experienced to set up to switch video? Let us know in the Comments, below, about situations you have encountered when a portable video switcher got the job done.

2 Comments

Thank you for such a wonderful and brief advice! Will definitely be investing in some of the equipment you mentioned 😉👍🏻

Thanks for reading, Johan S. T.! We are pleased that you can come away from this article with helpful information. You can always engage our chat people for specific advice.

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